Lindsay Fischer is an American Author and domestic violence advocate whose gripping memoir has brought validation to countless domestic violence survivors and understanding to countless others. To celebrate the recent anniversary of The House on Sunset‘s release, Fischer joined us for an interview. The views expressed below are those of Lindsay Fischer.
STM: Since its release last October, the success of your book, The House on Sunset has skyrocketed over the past year. How does that feel and what do you hope to have achieved by bringing your story so publicly to light?
LF: The notice my book is receiving is humbling, to say the least. Though I’ve always wanted it to reach as far as possible, I had to let go of expectation. Easier said than done, my ability to release anticipation has actually allowed me to appreciate every part of the journey. I’m so thankful, pleasantly surprised and eager to see where I go, instead of worrying about hitting an unrealistic mark.
My hope is for survivors to know they are not alone. It must sound bizarre to say I hope I validate them and their experiences, but that’s something survivors don’t feel. We all feel alone, misunderstood and confused. By sharing the darkest moments of my life, I hope they no longer feel as if nobody understands.
If I reach outside of the survivor community, I’m hoping the people who do read The House on Sunset walk away with a better understanding of how easy it is to find yourself inside of an abusive relationship. Ignorance, I think, breeds fear and hatred. I’d like to enlighten someone so they cannot continue saying damaging things like “Why did you stay?” or “I just can’t understand how anyone could love an abuser.” There’s enough information available for those sentiments to be banished from conversation, yet society is too scared to see the truth. If I can take off the blinders for anyone, I feel I’ve done my job.
STM: What kind of responses have you gotten from your book that stuck with you?
LF: Every response sticks with me, to be honest. I’ve seen mostly positive responses, but I’m learning to deal with the negative as it comes in. Usually, I realize I’ve struck a nerve with the naysayers which – I think – is probably just as good as anything else because they’re thinking and learning.
The messages I receive from survivors make me weepy. When you’ve been through it, it’s very easy to feel alone. Even after knowing the psychology of trauma and doing the research on brains, I still find myself feeling validated when others acknowledge how much they can relate to my story. If that’s happening for me, I hope those who’ve never picked up another domestic violence memoir walk away with even more.
In truth, writing The House on Sunset was never truly about me. Yes, I’ve found ways publishing has healed me (maybe more than I thought I needed), but I wanted to heal others. It’s an incredible gift to read when survivors say my book changed their life, and it’s one that’ll never grow old.
STM: We publish books targeted at medical, legal, and social work professionals, people who are often involved in treating domestic violence and sexual assault. Is there anything you’ve discovered in your experience as a survivor and advocate that you want people in these professions to consider?
LF: I haven’t dealt with a lot of people in those fields, I’ve seen how easy it is to grow jaded. There’s so much emotion and very little logic involved in trauma. When you see breakdowns constantly, it can truly become exhausting. Plus, how do you leave what happened at work at the door (especially when you have incredibly difficult days)?
I encourage every professional who is touched by violence and trauma to read as much as they can from the outlook of a survivor. Not only will this give you the insight I think is often overlooked in training (talking theories and numbers versus listening to real survivors share their stories), but my hope is that seeing people who’ve survived and now thrive will give them a better understanding of what they’re actually providing. It’s not just medical treatment, not when you’ve been treated like garbage. Treating us like we’re human and worthy impacts us in ways I’m still unable to articulate, but I haven’t forgotten the people who were able to look at me like I was whole when I very much felt broken.
Even a moment of normalcy can change everything, and you might not be privy to seeing this growth and healing, but it happens, it’s powerful, and it’s because of the professional who were able to show us kindness in the darkest moments of our lives.
For example, “How and when did you injure your jaw?” seems fairly straightforward, but six years ago I would have considered that accusatory. I wasn’t able to trust anyone and I was very used to being asked 20 questions a day. If you can start off your line of questioning with, “It says here you have a fracture to ‘xyz’ spot in your jaw. That must be painful,” you’re acknowledging how the survivor feels first. Empathy, ladies and gentlemen, goes a long way in dealing with survivors, especially since so much of society unintentionally triggers us through their own ignorance to the issue. Be kind. Talk to them about what they’re struggling with. Don’t start with twenty questions, you’ll be lucky if you get one answer.
STM: As someone who is familiar with the issue from being a survivor and speaking so openly with many other survivors, do you have any message for professionals whose goals are to treat and identify signs of domestic violence?
LF: Knowing the warning signs are wonderful and “treating” them is necessary, but never forget you’re first helping a human heal. I think a lot of times we are intimidated by or unable to answer a lot of questions professionals ask. Trust me, if we knew how to answer we would. Remember that questions feel loaded, we think every word is being scrutinized to be used against us. If there’s a way to rephrase the necessary information you need, but make the survivor feel as if you genuinely care, I’d start writing out a new script.
My answer here is similar to the last one, but I think it’s very easy for professionals who work in DV fields to assume we know they’re in their job to help. However, manipulation and deceit are so much of our lives. The guy I loved more than anyone else in the world tried to kill me. Now you, a perfect stranger, expect me to hash that out with you right away? I don’t think so.
It shouldn’t be taken personally, but I definitely think it’s easy to lose sight of how protective of ourselves we’ve learned to be.
Talking to and having training sessions with survivors will not hinder your ability to do your job. Instead, it might actually make it easier.